Following her performance in Under the Blue Sky, David Eldridge wrote The Knot of the Heart specifically as a vehicle for Lisa Dillon. She plays Lucy, a minor children's TV presenter fired for her spiralling heroin habit. Moving back into her mother's house in Islington her addiction just gets worse, not helped by the fact that her alcoholic mother Barbara (Margot Leicester) is an enabler.
The play's received rapturous reviews from the official channels, while everything I've heard from "normal" theatregoers has been the complete opposite, people have hated it and some have walked out at the interval (tonight a few actually made their exit half an hour into the first act.) I actually really like some of the ideas behind the show, of showing an addict from a very middle class background whose descent doesn't seem to affect her sense of superiority and entitlement; but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The first half in particular is pretty turgid and one scene between Lucy and Barbara had me struggling to stay awake. It doesn't help that, whether healthy or not, the lead character is pretty impossible to like or care about. I told Andy I'd mention his half-time verdict: "Well, I suppose we might as well go back in and see how it ends" - I can kinda see how some people have opted not to bother.
Actually the second half is an improvement, Lucy may not be any more likeable but her tentative steps towards recovery at least give some more life to these scenes. Michael Attenborough does seem though to have opted for his actors to stick to one-note performances, especially vocally: Dillon (whose haircut in this makes her look a lot like Clare Grogan in profile) is a really good actress but here she's stuck on "breathy" while Leicester's dial is on "shrill." The only actor to get a chance at variety is Kieran Bew, and only because he plays all the male roles so gets to nicely, subtly differentiate between them. The papers have almost universally given this four stars; for me the opening act is a two at best, possibly upgraded to a three after the interval. Neither of us found it to be the disaster a lot of people have called it but I wouldn't recommend it either. (I did, though, like the fact that the Davina-shaped elephant in the room is at least mentioned in passing.)
The Knot of the Heart by David Eldridge is booking until the 30th of April at the Almeida Theatre.